Modern Masters 2015 is clearly different from a normal set, so I’m going to review things a little differently. Like Modern Masters 2013, this set has way more synergy-based archetypes than any other Limited format, and reviewing cards just on a 0 to 5 scale seems less useful than talking about how they fit into the set as a whole.
As such, I’ll be dividing cards into the following categories:
Synergy – These are cards you won’t play unless you have specific combinations or in specific decks. They should often be treated as unplayable or filler if they aren’t properly supported.
Power – These are cards you will play in most or all decks.
Filler – These are cards that aren’t great overall, but you may need to play some number of.
Using the following scale, assume all filler cards are 2.0 or less, with all power cards getting a rating from 2.5 to 5.0. I’ll rate all Synergy cards individually as well, though the lower-powered ones will likely be lumped in with the filler.
5.0: The best of the best. (Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. Wingmate Roc.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Butcher of the Horde. Savage Knuckleblade. Crater’s Claws.)
4.0: Good rare or top tier uncommon. (Triplicate Spirits. End Hostilities. Necropolis Fiend.)
3.5: Top tier common or solid uncommon. (Lightning Strike. Woolly Loxodon. Suspension Field.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Debilitating Injury. Mardu Hordechief. Flesh to Dust.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Glacial Stalker. Bitter Revelation. Hunt the Weak.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Dragonscale Boon. Defiant Strike. Cancel.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Scout the Borders. Aeronaut Tinkerer. Ranger’s Guile.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Tusked Colossodon. Bronze Sable. Oppressive Rays.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Naturalize. Feed the Clan. Congregate.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Search the City. Pyxis of Pandemonium.)
It’s entirely possible that a card I think is a synergy card ends up being powerful enough that most decks will want it, or a card I think is powerful ends up being more of a filler card, but this is my initial read based on my experience with these cards (I’ve played every set that goes into Modern Masters 2015) and my assumption about the color pairs being pushed.
For reference, here are the 10 color pairs and the decks associated with each. Bear in mind that these aren’t hard and fast rules—you can draft black/red control even if “the black/red deck” is bloodthirst.
This is a holdover from the first Modern Masters, and is basically just all the artifacts and all the cards that care about artifacts. It tends to be aggressive, looking to attack with Rusted Relics, Court Homonculi, and Somber Hoverguards, and the addition of Cranial Plating is a big one.
White/Black Spirits and Arcane
A throwback to one of my favorite blocks, this archetype looks to accumulate value by combining Spirits, Arcane spells, and cards that trigger off them. Soulshift is a very powerful mechanic if you have enough Spirits, and a good WB deck should have a lot of staying power.
This is a slightly looser theme, in that cards that pump creatures and creatures that want to have high power can combine with many different cards. The main idea is to pile a bunch of stuff on a double striker or card like Bloodshot Trainee, and go from there.
Using cards from every set with convoke, WG looks to amass an army and grow that army, which is about as simple as it gets. It also doesn’t really care whether the creatures are tokens or not, but token-making is the easiest way to hit critical mass.
This is one of the least-themed color pairs, which actually sounds right. It does have a lot of cards that pay you for proliferating -1/-1 counters, but this is really just a value-based deck, and as such, can swap out cards freely. Some UB decks will be heavily themed, but others will just have removal and card draw and not play into any specific synergies.
The Elemental deck looks to be based in these two colors, but Smokebraider being the common engine card means that you can easily draft this deck in a more colorful fashion. Just about every Elemental also stands on its own, meaning it’s low investment to start down this path, as you end up with a playable deck even if you don’t go really deep on synergy.
This is more synergistic than the blue/black version of the deck, as it has a bunch of graft creatures making it more cohesive. It’s still a deck based on playing efficient creatures and attacking, but the proliferate/graft combos give it a bit more reach and power than it would otherwise have.
Here we have another non-linear deck, with most aggressive cards being fairly interchangeable. Bloodthirst does incentivize some cards like Goblin Fireslinger, but for the most part this deck drafts based on its curve rather than for synergy.
Rise of the Eldrazi makes its presence known with a rerun of the token theme, and I still like it. It combines cards that make little dorks with cards that want to devour or otherwise utilize them. It’s a synergy deck like WG, with high rewards for synergy but plenty of cards that work as long as you have a lot of creatures, not specifically just tokens.
This archetype looks to be base RG, but will splash more often than not. Cards like Tribal Flames, Matca Rioters, and sunburst artifacts give the deck incentive, and Rampant Growth, Evolving Wilds, Sphere of the Suns, and Wayfarer’s Bauble give it the means. It can also just forgo a splash and play ramp into big cards, which makes this one of the less focused archetypes.
For more on the archetypes, check out these articles by Pascal Maynard and Neal Oliver:
All right, let’s get to the cards!
Ant Queen is aggressively costed for her size and has a very powerful activated ability. That sounds like a bomb to me, and you don’t need to do anything special to make her great.
Sorry graft decks, but everyone is going to be snapping up the Spider if they need a 2-drop. This is just a very solid card, and even though it does get better with synergy, it’s good enough on its own that you can’t count on getting it late.
This is truly a menace to society, or at least your opponent. In a removal-heavy set, casting three creatures for the price of one is awesome, and as good as this looks, I think it’s a little better. Creatures just die so often, so getting like a 2.5-for-1 is huge, and this even has bonus synergy in the token deck (though you by no means have to go that direction).
I wonder how much the graft deck suffers from its better cards coming at a good enough rate that everyone wants them. As a 4/4 for four, this is already a good card, and it has a significant upside if you have any other creatures with counters around.
Karplusan Strider is less a sideboard card than a moderate playable, and I’m not really excited about it even against blue/black. It can fill out your curve, but won’t make great strides when it comes to making your deck more powerful.
Kozilek’s Predator, Nest Invader
Both Predator and Nest Invader are cards I’ll happily play in any green deck. They offer good-sized bodies and some useful Eldrazi Spawn, which lets you ramp, chump block, or even use equipment/pump spells to get value. Predator is a little better, but both are close enough that they deserve the same rating (and depending on curve, sometimes you’d rather have Invader).
Noble Hierarch isn’t a card you will see late in draft, unless your opponents are feeling particularly noble. It is a good card, and you don’t even need to be playing blue or white to be happy to add this to your deck.
Super Overrun when you have at least one good creature is pretty good, and at an easier casting cast to boot. This is the Overrun I want in my decks, and I’ll play this in any deck with 13+ creatures. Plus, if I have this, I’ll prioritize creatures and try to end up with around 16 or so.
Green has a lot of uncommons I like. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them ended up being a little less good than I think here, but I am a big fan of this, Cytoplast Root-Kin, and Bestial Menace. Pelakka Wurm in particular does everything you want from a 7-mana spell. It gains you enough life that you are usually in good shape afterwards, puts a huge threat on the board, and draws you a card in the event that it’s dealt with. Not every deck can play 7-drops, my theories aside, so be aware that some aggressive decks won’t be interested in this. It doesn’t seem like those decks are going to be typical of green decks in this format, though, so I think I’ll be happy to snap up Pelakka Wurm and run with it.
This rating may surprise those who remember how good Titan was in Constructed, but getting two basic lands is nowhere near the level of getting two Valakuts, so Titan ends up being a 6/6 trampler for 6 with an upside. Don’t get me wrong—that’s still good, but it isn’t quite a bomb. Decks that want 8+ mana do love the Titan, as they don’t care if it gets dealt with as much, but decks without a ton of expensive cards are mostly going to play this for the stats.
As long as your deck has 9 green sources and some cards that cost 4+ mana, Rampant Growth is a fine addition. It’s clearly meant to enable 3-5 color decks, but even in a 2-color deck this is a decent card, with the opportunity to be a great one.
The anti-combo with bouncelands isn’t great, but the power level of the Mob is still high enough to run it even in decks that have a couple bouncelands. Scute Mob is fairly slow to get going, with a cost priced to move. It’s often right to keep this in your hand until you have enough lands for it to get large, in the hopes that the opponent wastes removal on other things instead.
Tarmogoyf isn’t insane, but let’s be real: it’s never getting passed, either. ‘Goyf is likely to save you a mana or two on a 3/4, and later in the game it will often be a 4/5 or 5/6 (and with some luck and a Nameless Inversion, a 6/7). On pure power level, ‘Goyf is an auto-include, even if it isn’t a bomb.
Wolfbriar Elemental, on the other hand, is a bomb. It’s a great deal at any mana cost, and will almost always trade for multiple cards. It requires lots of green mana, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for this level of power.
Green has more cards in the power category than the synergy category, which is both good and bad news. The good news is that it has lots of powerful cards, but the bad news is that the synergy decks will get their cards stolen more often, making it less likely you get the awesome combo decks going.
If you can pick up enough chumps (Eldrazi Spawn are ideal), Algae Gharial can put in some solid work. It can even double as a win condition in a deck full of removal, and being naturally removal-resistant helps sell this plan a lot more.
All Suns’ Dawn
I like drawing four or five cards (surprisingly), and when you are playing a 5-color good stuff deck, All Suns’ Dawn is an awesome way to close out the game. You just need to reliably draw three cards for this to be great, and that shouldn’t be too hard in this set.
Kavu Primarch isn’t the payoff you get for going tokens, but it’s a card that goes from a 1.5 to 2.5. Sounds like a mediocre synergy card to me!
You need to have three different land types most of the time, and four or more some of the time, before this gets anywhere near your deck. That rules out most decks in the format, which ideally means that if you do want this, you won’t have much competition.
It’s funny that the RW deck is the deck that wants this most, as none of the green decks should be particularly excited to play a mini-Giant Growth (even if it’s nearly free). I hope to escape from the format having never played this card, but in a deck full of double strikers, it’s not bad.
This rating is only true for the most dedicated of token decks, and even then you shouldn’t always play this. In less dedicated decks, this is just bad, and I wouldn’t ever prioritize taking this until near the end of the draft. It’s just not a good effect for its cost, and a power level this low on a situational build-around is rarely acceptable. Suffice to say that I am underwhelmed.
How many medium token incentives do we need? Apparently the answer is like four, since this isn’t even the end of the list. Root-Kin Ally is a fine way to turn tokens into profit, but tokens are often profitable enough on their own, so picking up finishers like this is (still) not a high priority.
Scatter the Seeds
Scatter is a solid way to both use tokens and gain them, making it a good addition to any token deck and a good pickup for decks thinking about heading that direction. It’s also powerful enough to justify playing without a ton of extra synergy, though I’d rarely run this unless had at least one or two cards that pay me.
Scion of the Wild
Mediocre Token Engine Number 4, checking in. Play me if you have a lot of tokens, and not otherwise. Don’t be excited either way. That is all.
Unlike Fiery Fall, I don’t love playing this unless I’m 3+ colors or have a very slow deck. It does fix your mana adequately, and having a huge life gain spell in your deck for free is a nice bonus, so I don’t mind multiples once I’m playing the card in the first place.
Tukatongue Thallid is one of the most extreme synergy cards (just look at the little guy: clearly a party animal). It’s awful in decks without sacrifice outlets but great in the right deck, and nobody else is going to come near it. If the BG Sacrifice deck is any good, Tukatongue Thallid seems like an important part of that.
Vines of Vastwood
This card is vine but nothing special. I don’t like pump spells in formats this powerful, but at least it can save your good creatures from kill spells or help you win a combat. UG Graft seems like the natural home for this, as you are trying to keep some specific creatures alive.
Commune with Nature, Gnarlid Pack, Plummet, Simic Initiate, Sundering Vitae, Thrive
The usual sideboard cards are joined by cards I don’t like casting even in decks where they look plausible. If you do have to play Gnarlid Pack or Commune, it’s not the end of the world, but I’d prefer not to. Simic Initiate is not good, even in the graft deck. Do not play it.
Like I mentioned earlier, green is heavy on power and surprisingly light on synergy. It’s certainly intended to be there, but the incentives seem weak, and there are few cards that combine in powerful ways. Mostly there are just good cards, which is a fine reason to draft the color, and does make it less risky to start out in green.